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The Galatasaray Lycée was originally established in 1481, making it is the oldest Turkish high school in Istanbul and the second oldest Turkish educational institution in the city after Istanbul University which was established in 1453.
Bayezid II (1447–1512) founded the original Galata Sarayı Enderun-u Hümayunu (Galata Palace Imperial School) in 1481. According to legend, one day Bayezid came across a beautiful garden with well-groomed red and yellow rosebeds. When he stopped to look at the roses, Gül Baba (Father Rose), an ageing wise man approached him. The Sultan chatted to the wise man about Istanbul, a city being repopulated with expelled Jews from Spain, Orthodox Armenians from the eastern provinces and Turks from Karaman. Gül Baba tells the Sultan that he is happy with the city, but he would be much happier if an institution existed where people with diverse backgrounds could get an education under one roof. He also tells the Sultan that he would be proud to serve as a teacher at this school. Bayezid carefully listened to Gül Baba and weeks later returned to the garden to show Gül Baba the edict which marked the establishment of the Ottoman Imperial School on the grounds next to the rose garden. So, in 1481, Gül Baba became the first headmaster of Galatasaray and administered the school for many years.
The Galata Palace Imperial School continued as an educational institution for about 350 years until the 1830s, when with the movement of reform, the Ottoman Empire’s old institutions were abolished. In its place, Sultan Mahmud II (1808–1839) opened the Ottoman Medical School, which was largely made up of French professors with most courses taught in French. The Medical School functioned for 30 odd years.
Sultan Abdülaziz (1861–1876) was the first Ottoman sultan to travel to Europe. Invited by Napoleon III in 1867, he attended the World Exhibition in Paris. Abdülaziz was so impressed by the French educational system that when he returned to Istanbul, he established a modern, free, compulsory education system for all children under the age of 12. In September 1868, influenced by the French Lycée model, a school under the name ‘Lycée Impérial Ottoman de Galata-Sérai’ was opened. French was the main language of instruction and many of the teachers were foreigners from Europe.
In 1905, in one of Galatasaray’s classrooms, the Galatasaray Soccer Club was founded. With the abolition of the Ottoman Empire and the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the name of the school was changed to ‘Galatasaray Lisesi’ (Galatasaray Lycée). Education continued in Turkish and French, and the school comprised an Elementary School and a Lycée (high school), where French, Literature, Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English and German were taught selectively in the last four years. Today, Galatasaray Lycée’s graduates continue to fill high-ranking political, industrial and business positions in and outside of Turkey.
Its impressive green-and-gold gates on İstiklâl Caddesi are a popular meeting spot.
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